PARIS - Cerep S.A. signed a three-year drug discovery service contract with the Belgian company Solvay Pharmaceuticals under which it will make its technology available to Solvay for the selection and optimization of new drug candidates.
Brussels-based Solvay thus will have the benefit of Cerep's high-throughput screening and profiling capability, as well as its expertise in the fields of molecular modeling, bioinformatics and chemistry.
The financial terms of the fee-for-service deal were not disclosed, although Cerep's president and CEO, Thierry Jean, told BioWorld International that it set a minimum level of annual spending but no maximum. The contract, he said, "highlights Cerep's ability to tailor both the scientific and financial aspects of a project to a client's specification" and is evidence that "Cerep provides a wide range of technologies which are very competitive with those available to even large pharmaceutical companies." It was already a "one-stop shop" that provided its customers with a complete range of drug discovery support services, he added.
More than 130 companies worldwide pay for access to Cerep's integrated drug discovery technology, including some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry. Cerep has also entered into strategic alliances with corporations such as Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), Sanofi-Synthilabo and Aventis CropScience for the discovery and validation of particular types of therapeutic compound.
In that regard, Cerep has reported "significant progress" in its collaboration with BMS, with which it signed a five-year research and development agreement in July 1999. "The research program is progressing more rapidly than expected," said Jean, and patent applications had been filed for several optimized leads in only 10 months. The agreement provides for Cerep to receive annual research and development funding of $5 million and for milestone payments to be triggered once BMS takes drug targets into clinical development. Jean declined to say when that phase might be reached.
Cerep attributes the rapid progress made to date partly to the information provided by its BioPrint database, which contains chemical and pharmacological data for most drugs on the market as well as for some that failed in development. The data generated so far have led to the discovery of correlations between the in vitro properties of drugs and their human clinical hepatotoxicity, as well as to BMS developing a computational model for predicting intestinal permeability from chemical structures.